After a surgery, fluid may collect inside your body in the surgical area. This makes an infection or other problems more likely. A surgical drain allows the fluid to flow out.
The doctor will put a thin rubber tube into the area of your body where the fluid is likely to collect. The rubber tube will carry the fluid outside your body. The most common type of surgical drain carries the fluid into a collection bulb that you empty. This is called a Jackson-Pratt drain. The drain uses suction created by the bulb to pull the fluid from your body into the bulb.
The rubber tube will probably be held in place by one or two stitches in your skin. Most people attach the bulb with a safety pin to clothing or near the bandage so that it doesn't flip around or pull on the stitches.
When you first get the drain, the fluid will be bloody. It will change colour from red to pink to a light yellow or clear as the wound heals and the fluid starts to go away.
Your doctor may give you specific information on when you no longer need the drain and when it will be removed. In general, you will need the drain until you are collecting less than about 2 tablespoons of fluid in 24 hours.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Follow any instructions your doctor gives you. How often you empty the bulb depends on how much fluid is draining. Empty the bulb when it is half full.
To empty the bulb:
You may have a bandage. Your doctor will tell you how often to change it.
Squeezing or "milking" the tube can help prevent clogs so that it drains correctly. Your doctor will tell you when you need to do this. In general, you do this when:
To milk the tube:
Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:
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Current as of: November 20, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
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